[Emily Gap (East MacDonnell Range)] [Fun in the park] [Adelaide from the air] [Clara and Lucy waiting for sunset at Uluru]

Australian Journal - December 2002

December 2-15, 2002 - Summer holidays and Christmas approaching: Tuesday night was another night the girls have been waiting for - their Christmas concerts at school. First came the lower junior school (Kindie through Year 2), which included Lucy. Then, a half hour break with a "sausage sizzle"--typical Aussie summer fare, and then it was time for the upper junior school (Year 3 through Year 6). The girls all sang beautifully and had put together simple but delightful costumes for their numbers. It was a fun evening - if a little long for those younger sisters such as Lucy who had to hang around for the entire show!

Over the weekend, we got the Christmas tree decorated and the stockings hung, and with these visible preparations here in our own home, Clara and Lucy seemed to realize that Christmas really was coming quite soon. They have been so excited and just go around singing all the time!

A bunch of the lights on the tree are not functioning this year, so, time permitting we will search for some correct replacement bulbs. It probably won't be straight forward--this is another thing we've noticed in Australia, and not just for Christmas lights - but that there is a much greater variety of types of light bulbs (types of bases, voltages, etc.), and you really need to know exactly what bulb you need when you go to the hardware store! Sandy just heard a lighting store advertise on the radio last week that if they didn't have the type of bulb you needed, they would try to build one for you!

Thursday was the last (half) day of school for the girls. The Year 3 girls had a surprise for Sandy - they had been working on ANOTHER quilt, as a thank-you gift. Each girl decorated a square of plain, off-white fabric with fabric markers, then Mrs. Smith (Clara's Year 3 teacher) sewed them together, along with interleaving squares of fancier fabrics. She had hoped to complete the quilt (and intended to take it home over the holidays to do so!) but Sandy told her she would love to finish it. Several girls in Clara's class have been publishing a small unofficial Year 3 newspaper, and in the recent issue were the results of a class survey asking each girl to put down their favorite thing of the year - and it turned out that Sandy's quilting project with the class was the favorite item of half the class - so that made her very pleased that the girls enjoyed it to that extent!

Then, Sandy, Clara and Lucy went to a going-away lunch for Mrs. Smith, who is leaving Wilderness to work in their family business (candymaking - or the "lolly factory" as the girls refer to it). Thursday afternoon, Clara's friend Katarina came to play, and have dinner. Then, later in the evening, when Tim & Sandy were about ready for bed, there was a loud clatter from the back of the house. Rushing out - we saw a pair of young possums wrestling and playing, clattering up against the metal fence and making a huge racket!

We've added a couple more pictures to the Oz pictures page. One is of some of Sandy's quilted Christmas ornaments, and the other is a picture of central Adelaide which Tim took as his plane was about to land on his return from the States. The Torrens River is in the foreground, and you can see the ring of parklands (essentially a very large greenbelt filled with fields, parks, playgorunds, woods, paths, etc.) surrounding the center of the city. Glenunga is in the upper left portion of the picture, where the ground starts to rise into the Adelaide Hills.

Another weekend - and a few more preparations for Christmas! Last year, it was driver's licenses that took up our time - this year it is social events, and other more traditional Christmas activities. The short shopping hours have really put a crimp in Tim's shopping, as he can't shop after work most days, and, although many big stores are open on weekends during December, many of the smaller shops are not. So, he went shopping Thursday night in the suburbs, Friday night in the city, and Saturday morning again. In the meantime, Sandy and the girls continued their Christmas prep, and Saturday afternoon, Clara went to Katerina's house (note that this is a different girl than the Katarina who visited earlier in the week - two of her best friends are Katarina and Katerina - distinguished [in print] only by an "e" vs. an "a" in the names.)

The hot weather has finally arrived. Saturday was quite warm, in the mid-upper 80s, and Sunday morning dawned quite warm - so we decided not to head to a park as we had originally planned, as the temperature is supposed to be in the mid 90s, and the UV danger is extreme. This coming week is predicted to be mostly in the lower-mid 90s - although the latest weather shows tomorrow being a 100 degree day! We have been hoping for another mild (relatively!) summer like last year, but it looks like we may not get it.

December 16-23, 2002 - Christmas - almost: Sandy and the girls have been enjoying a good week at home in spite of the high temperatures - and it has been even a couple degrees hotter up in Elizabeth where Tim works - 107 Farenheit one day!

The girls have also discovered the game of Monopoly - the adult version, not the junior version we've played in the past. They've really taken to it, and kept asking Sandy to keep playing. Their first game lasted about two and a half days with Clara winning when Sandy landed on Park Place with a hotel.

Friday was Tim's last day of work - it is the official "Break Up Day" for the company. The company brings in bands, and caters a lunch, and essentially sponsors an all-afternoon party. So, Tim stayed for a bit then went off for more Christmas shopping. When he arrived home, he found an unusual smell in the air - Sandy and the girls had baked chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, in spite of the heat! They had also taken some to several families in the neighborhood. Sandy thought it was a pretty crazy thing to do (especially since it was well over 100 again), but she had just decided that they had to bake some cookies before Christmas - now she understands why it is not a typical thing that Australians do at Christmas. Well, the girls had so much fun helping to make them and they thought the cookies were the best they had EVER eaten. Sandy thinks that is more to do with the fact that she hasn't baked any in such a long time rather with how good they actually were (but they were quite good).

The girls also got to go swimming twice in the pool at our neighbors across the street, which was great fun for them, and a much-needed respite from the heat. Finally, the heat broke (temporarily) on Sunday, and is back down into the mid-20s. However, it is predicted to start creeping back up again, and to be back into the upper 30s by the end of the week. We are still amazed at how people coped here before air conditioning.

On Monday, (Christmas Eve "Eve"), we did two special things. We let the girls open one of their presents early (can you tell from this picture that they are excited about it?!) and we had our first "shrimp on the barbie." Hard to believe we've been here 15 months, and this was the first time we've thrown shrimp on the barbie, as the old Paul Hogan commercials used to encourage!

Monday night, we also let the girls stay up late to go see Christmas lights - such a difference from Seattle, where it is dark by half past four this time of year - here the sun doesn't set until 8:30, and it's light for another half hour! Also, there are very few externally-decorated houses, compared to the States. Here, we drove into the city to see the big Christmas tree in Victoria Square, then out northwest of the city to the West End Brewery, which decorates part of their grounds, and then back east of the city, to the town of Paradise, where perhaps a dozen houses were decorated. Other than that, only a very few houses had Christmas lights up - another big change from the States. Decorated houses are so rare that the newspaper publishes a list so we knew where to go looking!

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